Captain’s log, stardate 20180621
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Sent by Jonathan Stark on June 23rd, 2018
We have a leaky hose. Well, it’s not the hose exactly. The actual problem is that the water spigot on the front of the house won’t shut all the way off.
It was fine until a couple of days ago. You could easily twist the grippy dial handle thing counter-clockwise to turn the water on and clockwise to shut it off. It was actually quite smooth and easy to do without much physical effort at all.
And then for some mysterious reason, it suddenly became unturnable overnight. My wife turned it on to fill up a kiddie pool for the kids and then couldn’t turn it off. It basically locked up halfway open with water shooting out all over the place.
She had me come out to try to shut it off. I couldn’t budge it with my bare hands so I grabbed some tools.
Once I had some real leverage on the thing with a wrench I was able to shut it almost all the way off, but water was still trickling out. I was twisting so hard that I was afraid I was going to break the spigot right off the foundation.
So... I gave up and called a plumber. His name was Travis.
I explained to Travis that the front spigot was leaking and he made an appointment to come by and take a look the next day.
When he arrived, he investigated the situation from two vantage points:
- Outside the house, where the spigot sticks out of the foundation
- Inside the house, from the water meter to where the spigot pipe exits the basement.
When Travis was done, he gave me two estimates. The first one said:
Old style hose bib doesn’t work properly due to age. Recommend to install 12” freeze proof hose bib, 3/4” pex tubing, 3/4ball valve in pit or wall, and pex tubing. Install 1/2“ frost free sillcock 10” Repair plastic water 3/4“ lines with ball valve. Estimated Price: $760.39
The second estimate said:
Bring meter to code. Install residential dual check valve, raise meter out of pit, pex tubing along ceiling to water heater and connect to existing water lines with an potable expansion tank. Also hose bib for the front house. Estimated Price $1,422.38
Both of these estimates are great examples of how not to quote a job.
Travis focused on the activities that he would undertake on my behalf. He described plumbing parts that I don’t care about using terms that I don’t understand. It’s a bunch of jargon that is meaningless to anyone but another plumber.
His prices are estimates and yet comically specific. It implies to me that he’s using some formula which makes me wonder if he really knows what he’s doing or just following some playbook.
Even worse, he said absolutely nothing explicitly about whether any of this would solve my problem, and if so, for how long!
Here’s what I wish Travis’ estimate had said:
Situation Appraisal: Your front hose spigot is leaking. This is wasting water, creating a muddy mess in the front yard, and could start leaking into the finished basement through the foundation. You can’t use the hose until the spigot is fixed because you fear you won’t be able to shut it back off. Or worse, if you try to shut it off too hard, it might break off an become an emergency situation requiring you to shut off all water to the house for days. Proposed Solution: I will replace the old hose spigot with a new one that has the following characteristics: * So easy to turn that even the kids will be able to operate it by hand * Made of 100% freeze proof material that prevents unexpected failures during the cold winter months * 10-year “no leak” satisfaction guarantee Benefits * You will be able to use your hose again to fill kiddie pool and water the garden * You will not be wasting water which saves money and the environment * You will not need to worry about the spigot again for at least a decade As a valued customer, you are additionally entitled to the following bonuses free of charge: * Free 30-minute homeowner training session on how to shut off the water main in the unlikely event of future plumbing failures * Free annual winterization plumbing inspection * Free access to our live 24/7 plumbing Q&A hotline Your Guaranteed Final Price: $1500
See the difference?
My rewrite speaks to the homeowner’s immediate pains and lurking fears. There is no plumbing jargon.
The focus is on the homeowner’s desired outcome, not the parts and labor delivered by the plumber.
Mine is “you-focused” (i.e., focused on the value for the buyer) and Travis’ is “me-focused” (i.e., focused on costs for the seller).
Being you-focused is not always easy because it requires empathy and understanding... but it’s much more effective for closing deals and increasing value and raising prices.
Also note how my version makes price shopping difficult for the homeowner.
It would be easy for me to take Travis’ actual estimates to other plumbers to see if anyone wanted to beat his price. He has reduced his quote to parts and labor and therefore presented himself as a commodity.
Conversely, my rewrite would be nearly impossible to shop around. It doesn’t list parts or labor. Other plumbers are unlikely to bundle in the value-added services. Making an apples to apples price comparison would not be a realistic option.
Are you up for a quick homework assignment?
Go back and look at the last few proposals you sent out. As you read though them, ask yourself:
- Are they full of developer jargon?
- Are they full of activities that you planned to undertake?
- Are they full of features you planned to include?
- Did you present weirdly specific estimated prices?
- Did you fail to explicitly state in plain terms the expected business outcomes of your engagement?
- Did you fail to offer a guarantee of any kind?
- Did you fail offer unique value-added benefits?
If so, you’re writing proposals like Travis.
Don’t be like Travis.
P.S. Would you like help crafting killer proposals? Proposal writing is a big part of my private coaching program. Just this week I had a student close a deal at a price $40,000 higher than he was planning on asking prior to my revisions. His coaching investment paid for itself many times over with just one proposal. Two seats are currently available. Apply now to secure a spot: https://jonathanstark.com/coaching
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